Mental images I have from cities are all grey with low colour contrast. I do not like high rise buildings blocking daylight, I do not like people left living on the street because of their mental or financial issues while so much indoor space is kept unused at night, I do not like noise and traffic, I do not like the lack of space, I do not like light pollution at night. I do not like cities, but I have lived in different ones.
Convenience. This is what keeps bringing people to cities. Money and food are abundant but let us reflect together on social life there.
“What do you do for fun” I asked someone yesterday and they paused for a long time revealing a sad truth: Despite all the buzzing, people are still bored.
So much is happening, and events are filling the air however people are lonely and unfulfilled.
Today, living in cities looks to me like a tree of inedible fruit. People want to make friends, but they hardly succeed in building meaningful relationships that go beyond superficial social gatherings. This is striking as people in their majority are interesting, fun and social yet they end up leading a life in a box, struggling to truly connect with someone.
My own reflections and observations on the matter lead me to believe that an unhealthy vicious loop has taken place and I would like to spread the word and try and break it.
A person arrives to a new city full of hope, wishing for new beginnings.
Soon, they get hooked on the concept of “productivity” and pushing their time to the limit. Everything starts by the fear of not having enough money to survive and by the misconception of what productivity is.
Mixed feelings start building up and anxiety gains in territory. When anxiety hits, the brain starts using its defense mechanisms and the person starts growing more rigid and attached to the rituals, the routines and to the schedule they made.
Details of life become so structured and sometimes overthought that not much space is left for spontaneity and flexible thinking. If you meet someone, either one of you will find it hard “to find time” to meetup. Too much effort and thinking will kill the joy of starting a new friendship. People want to make friends but also people are not willing to bend the schedule for this purpose.
Anxiety levels become even higher, and the person feels trapped in a dead-end. The dangerous thing here is that the brain’s response to anxiety is more rigidity: people start putting restrictions on the way they eat, on the way they move and on the way they have fun. They live the illusion of being “healthy”. They get drowned in this “healthy” way of life which suffocates any hope of spontaneous behaviour. Loneliness hits and it slowly develops into depression.
Here is a more joyful model that you can try following and hopefully, with the power of chain behaviour, we could make people happier and less lonely in cities:
Arrive to a new city full of hope, wishing for new beginnings.
Take the time to explore your neighborhood. The road to your house should be more than a pathway to take you back and forth to work. Explore cafes, grocery shops, community centers, anything and everything in your neighbourhood. Spend time there and talk to people, meet your neighbours outdoor. You will have more chances of bonding in a garden than saying hello in the elevator. Knowing the space you live in will help you become familiar with it. Familiarity is what we need to feel at home and safe.
Familiarity is key to dropping anxiety levels. You need to have your own places to feel fine and settled. Take the time to be in the same space several times and do not get hooked on the “I’ve got so many options for fun” concept. Going to new places is wonderful but for your daily bubble, you need a minimum amount of familiarity.
Take your time to bond with people. Handing out a business card or exchanging phone numbers is not enough. Take the first step and call. Tell yourself that we are all anxious and nervous and someone must take the first action and risk the possible outcome of rejection. Bend your schedule and do not have a calendar for personal hangouts. Your life must not follow the same pace nor model as the office. Spontaneity is your friend. Keep it with you when it comes to social meetups.
Invite people over to your house. No matter how your place looks like, sharing your space with someone will get you closer to each other and will make your chances of opening up even higher. Music and food are the universal language to bringing people closer and allowing connections on more meaningful levels.
At last but not least, I could never say this enough : Go Outdoors. Pick any activity you like and be in the daylight. Your body needs daylight to regulate cycles of awareness and sleep, to regulate your mood and to keep your organs healthy. Is the weather bad? Get the right clothing and just go outdoor, you will be fine.
You can be living in the best city in the world and still be unhappy. The secret lays in the crowd you gather around you. Personally, I give time to building my social life and in return, my social circles help me build my life. Your connections as a human being play a major role in improving the quality of the life you lead. Success is not only the career you chose and the money you make. Success after all means being happy and healthy.
If you work so hard for a career why wouldn’t you work hard for your happiness?